Jenks Public Schools will no longer show a documentary film that suggests Islamic terrorists might have been behind the Oklahoma City bombing.
The History Channel film, “Conspiracy: Oklahoma City Bombing,” examines a variety of conspiracy theories about the 1995 Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing, which killed 168 people.
“We’re very happy about the decision,” said Adam Soltani, executive director of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which worked with a Jenks parent in filing the complaint.
“This was never about making things difficult for the school,” he said, “but about bringing to light the fact that we live in a more diverse society.”
Jenks Public Schools spokeswoman Bonnie Rogers confirmed that the parent’s request to discontinue showing the film was first denied at the individual school level and then approved at the district level after an appeal.
“Ultimately, through the process, the film was removed,” she said.
Soltani and several Muslim parents of Jenks students met with Jenks administrators in May to express their concerns that the film could lead to hostility toward students of Middle Eastern and Muslim background.
They were instructed to file a request to have the film reviewed by the Materials Review Committee at the Freshman Academy, where it had been shown.
One of the parents filed the request in June. She did not want to comment or be identified, citing concerns for her children.
The review committee rejected the request to remove the film, saying it was being used to teach students to analyze conspiracy theories and hasty generalizations.
CAIR-Oklahoma then worked with the parent to write a letter appealing the decision, Soltani said.
That letter stated that the Oklahoma City bombing was a “singularly important event” that was extensively investigated by state and national officials and the media and that the film provided students with “theories and not the true facts of the event.”
“It does not serve the students of this district to be misinformed about such important historical events,” the letter states.
“Factual information will facilitate the efforts to deter the bullying and harassment based upon religious prejudice against Muslim students that has resulted from such inaccurate presentation of class room material and instruction,” the letter says.
“Continual discrimination and harassment of Muslim students at Jenks is well-known amongst Tulsa Muslims,” the letter continues.
In a letter to the parent dated Aug. 5, Debbie Burchfield, assistant superintendent of student services, wrote that a committee of district-level administrators had further reviewed the film and decided to remove it from the collection in the Freshman Academy Media Center.
Burchfield wrote that the teacher’s intent in using the film was to critically analyze the conspiracy theories that arise from tragedies such as the Oklahoma City bombing.
“However, teaching critical analysis is difficult and the lesson itself needs to be revised to create a balanced approach to the teaching of this particular event,” she wrote. This is especially important because “today’s students do not have a contextual memory of the events as they actually occurred.”
Burchfield also said she found the allegations of discrimination against Muslim students at Jenks “very concerning.”
“It has not been my experience, nor the experience of other district administrators, to hear of an unusual number of incidents of religious discrimination,” she wrote.
“It is the goal of Jenks Public Schools to provide a safe and exceptional learning environment for all students.”